"Without doubt, Chester is the city of love": Is the walled city the place to be this Valentine's Day?

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 February 2016

Could Chester be the city of love? Historians in the city think so - and have put some shiny ancient symbols on display for Valentine's Day

A photo of the centre of Chester showing a Carphone Warehouse building and people
Love is in the air on this Chester street© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
A Roman gold finger wedding ring bearing a heartfelt clasped hands design, a silver band from the 15th century decorated with flowers and hearts and a silver ring love token from a couple of centuries later, adorned with a heart and initials, make a strong collective case for Chester being the city of choice for romantic treasures this weekend.

A photo of a ring for Valentine's Day from the historic city of Chester in Cheshire
Romantic artefacts including 15th and 16th century rings are on display in the city over the Valentine's weekend© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
Then there are a collection of wedding dresses dating from as far back as 1851, accompanied by shoes and veils, a set of Victorian and Edwardian Valentine’s cards, pipeclay Venus statuettes and a bronze Cupid figuring.

A photo of a ring for Valentine's Day from the historic city of Chester in Cheshire
© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
All of which leaves Dean Paton, a leading local archaeologist from Big Heritage, making some bold claims in historic Cheshire.

A photo of a ring for Valentine's Day from the historic city of Chester in Cheshire
A collection of wedding dresses dating back as early as 1851 are on show at the Grosvenor Museum this weekend, along with shoes and veils© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
“Without doubt, Chester, and not Paris, is the original city of love,” he insists, having headed into the vaults of the city’s Grosvenor Museum to back up his talk with some stunning exhibits.

A photo of a ring for Valentine's Day from the historic city of Chester in Cheshire
© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
“The deeper we delved, the more historical evidence we found.

A photo of a bowl made by the English potter Thomas Toft from Chester, Cheshire
Given as a wedding gift, this artefact is one of only two of its like in the world© Courtesy Grosvenor Museum
And it’s not just in the museum– the city’s unique historic buildings are bursting with stories of love, romance and passion that date back centuries.”

The English Paris? Three places to feel the love

The Peppergate

A photo of a stone arch in the snowy Grosvenor Park in Chester, Cheshire
© Jeff Buck
Twenty years before Shakespeare had penned Romeo and Juliet, Chester had its own true story of star-crossed lovers after the Mayor of Chester’s daughter fell in love with a penniless suiter. The two young lovers met in secret outside the city’s Peppergate, where they rode off together on horseback. In a fit of rage, the Mayor ordered the gate to be closed every night for several years. But today the very same gate is open for couples to walk under.

Grosvenor Park

A photo of a pair of gates known as The Wolf Gate or Pepper Gate in Chester, Cheshire
© John S Turner, geograph.org.uk
Full of medieval arches and tree-lined Victorian avenues, this park is home to the legendary Billy Hobby’s Well. Now capped with a Victorian stone cover, the well has been used since at least medieval times and local legend states that if a fair maiden placed their right leg in the well and wished for true love, their wish would be granted.

The Wishing Steps

A photo of a set of stone steps known as the wishing well stairs in Chester, Cheshire
© Chester Tourism
Of Roman origin, these form part of the city walls and are associated with a romantic legend stretching back hundreds of years. Locals believed that running up and down the steps while holding their breath would ensure all of their wishes came true.

Are you going to a museum or gallery for Valentine's Day? Leave a comment below.
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